Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Lexington,New Orleans, FEMA,Los Angeles, Northridge and Ernesto


My wife has been flying in and out of the Lexington airport this year related to a special project connected to her work. We have been watching the reports of the tragic accident there with great interest and the scenes shown on TV are very familiar to her.
There are two things we know for sure:
1. The airport runways are not marked clearly so you can tell which one you are using.
2. The control tower has big windows so you can see the airport but no one looked out to see if the plane was headed in the right direction and on the correct runway. They have excused themselves and said they are too busy to “baby sit” the aircraft. Why then are we building high towers with big windows so they can see what is going on? Just one quick peek would have saved 50 lives and many reputations and maybe a small airline. Do they have computer screens that show the location of larger aircraft and that it is on the wrong runway? How many planes took off that morning? Were they that busy that they could not look?
Watch for the answers to these questions and other airports need to review their own procedures. The towers are under management of the same organization that oversees major highways, FEMA and Amtrak.


We have every politician who can make it in New Orleans working to blame the other party.
Of course, we remember 4:31 A.M. January 17, 1994. I was sitting in my recliner in front of the TV checking the morning paper. My wife was just about to get up and prepare for her first day at a new job. We were temporarily staying in an apartment on the ground floor of a 3 story building. We were in the valley near Los Angeles about 4 miles from Northridge where at least 16 people living on the ground floor of buildings just like ours were about to die.
A large roar started. The TV fell off and bruised my leg. I got up to go for my wife and she was calling me, as I tried to call back to her and nothing came out of my mouth. I tried to walk back through the hallway but the shock waves made it feel as if I were stepping into valleys and peaks but the floor was solid concrete. It seemed to take forever but I made it and we huddled together in a door frame.
We slept in our car for a few nights until our building was approved for occupancy. The President flew into town with a lot of publicity. We were directed to visit FEMA offices where we would be made “whole” or put back into the position we were in before the earthquake. Whole for us meant hundreds of dollars in broken items and we were not able to start work because nothing was open so we were losing income and paying rent on a building we could not occupy.
FEMA was sorry but they could not make us “whole”. There were a couple of reasons I have tried to block out. It was not impressive sitting before this group of high paid “experts” telling us why they could not help us after enticing us with all the wonderful things they had promised. We even heard people calling into talk shows on the radio stations that were operating and bragging about how they had been able to get two and three payments for rent amounting to thousands of dollars. It seems if you lied, you could get money and some of the people knew how to con FEMA and helped each other.

FEMA was screwed up then and it is still screwed up. Do we blame the heads of government of both parties or do we look at the career professionals who have been running the agencies for many years? Pros who the news tells us are being paid about double the average salary of non governmental employees.


Right now we are basing the projected hurricane track on yesterday’s computer models.
Only one model was updated early this morning and that shows Ernesto reduced to a tropical storm over Cuba and then traveling up the gulf to the Sanibel area and then crossing Florida to South of New Smyrna and going along the coast up toward Cape Hatteras.
The strength of the storm is not clear. Based on older models it will be a tropical storm but based on the latest computer model it could gain some strength as it travels part way up the gulf coast in warm water.
We do know it will not go up to the New Orleans area. The cold front and high pressure areas in the southern part of the US tend to push it down and to the east into the Atlantic as it travels north.
I have to decide if I should board up my windows and will do that later this morning and will let you know what the latest computer models show at that time. It will start raining here later today. We need that rain.

Have a great day if you can.

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